Leaving a job is never easy. No matter your reason for leaving (accepting another job offer, retirement, experiencing burnout or other health issues, etc.), the experience can feel anxiety-inducing and awkward.
That includes crafting a resignation letter before you leave for good. What do you need to say, and how should you say it?
The good news is that a resignation letter does not need to be long, labored over, or detailed. The key to a great resignation letter is nailing the tone: thoughtful, concise, and grateful.
Read on for some useful tips on structuring and writing the perfect professional resignation letter.
Writing a resignation letter: An overview
A resignation letter is a written notice that you are leaving an employer, typically sent at least two weeks before your departure.
This formal communication is important for several reasons:
It helps you exit on a positive, courteous note.
It gives your old employer time to hire a replacement.
It provides HR with official documentation of your decision to resign.
No matter where you work, for however long, sending a resignation letter is the professional thing to do before starting a new job.
Why is it important to write a thoughtful resignation letter?
A professional resignation letter is brief, polite, and thoughtful. Choose your words carefully and avoid airing any grievances to:
Avoid face-to-face confrontations or workplace tension.
Keep open the possibility of using your old employer as a reference.
Prevent your employer from using your words against you later.
Avoid burning bridges because you never know how those actions may negatively impact your opportunities or career.
When should you send a resignation letter?
Submit your resignation letter two to four weeks before beginning your new job. If you have a good relationship with your boss, discuss your resignation beforehand to figure out how to handle the transition.
Situations can arise where giving proper notice is not feasible, such as needing to attend training for your new job almost immediately. In these situations, give written notice as soon as possible while explaining the circumstances.
How should you deliver a resignation letter?
You should almost always deliver your resignation letter in person.
In some circumstances, it may be acceptable to mail your resignation letter or deliver it via email, such as when your boss works in another office or when you work remotely. Some companies may even require you to submit your resignation as an email.
Breakdown of a resignation letter
A standard resignation letter includes three brief paragraphs with a standard greeting, closing, and your contact information. You need to provide basic information, express gratitude, and tie up loose ends.
Your contact information
Your contact information should be at the top of your letter. Use a standard business header giving your name, physical address, phone number, and email address.
Your intent to resign
Start by telling your boss of your intention to leave the company. Use a polite, respectful, to-the-point tone. Don't go over the top with phrases like "It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you…"
An opener such as, "Please accept this letter as my official resignation from […]" will do.
Your final day of employment
Follow your statement of your intent to resign with a sentence giving your last day at work. You can find out when your last day should be through your new company.
Gratitude for the work opportunity
Begin your second paragraph with a one- to two-sentence statement of gratitude for opportunities you've received at your old employer.
Try this kind of phrasing: "It was an honor to learn and grow as a [position] at [company name]. I am grateful for the experiences we shared as colleagues and team members." Avoid being overly flowery, though. This comes off as insincere.
Tying up loose ends
Wrap up the letter with a two- to three-sentence statement relating relevant information for moving forward. Speak in a positive, cooperative tone.
Express willingness to help with the transition in whatever way possible, such as training your replacement. If you and your boss set deadlines for any remaining projects, affirm these deadlines.
Finally, wish them the best in all future endeavors.
Resignation letter do's and don'ts
Your resignation letter needs to create a positive, grateful, helpful final impression.
Avoid including anything negative, overly-detailed, or inappropriate. The following do and don't lists are reliable guidelines on what to include.
Use a polite, respectful, warm tone
Explain in one sentence that you are leaving your position
Give your exact last day of work
Express gratitude for the opportunities your employer has given you
Affirm your commitment to help with the transition as a team member to the last day
Offer to train your replacement
Wish your boss and colleagues all the best in future endeavors
Provide your contact information in the header at the top
Air grievances about the company
Complain about your old boss or colleagues
Forget to thank your old boss for the opportunity with them
Explain in excessive detail why you are leaving your position — you may choose to discuss your reasoning, such as trying to avoid burnout, during your exit interview
Give excessive details on your new job opportunity
Use profanity or inappropriate language
Make threats of retribution of any kind to your boss or the company
Use overly-effusive or insincerely flattering language
Make spelling or grammar errors
This article was reviewed by Sarah Holliday, MS
Sarah Holliday has years of experience working with nontraditional and traditional-aged students in areas related to career coaching and training and development.
Holliday holds a BA in English from The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an MS in instructional design and technology (training and performance improvement) from Walden University. Holliday is currently working on her doctorate and looks forward to dissertating in the near future.
Sarah Holliday is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.